What is second nature to experienced cooks may be confounding to those less experienced, presenting a roadblock to discovering the pleasures of cooking at home. Early in this elegant book, Spungen states that “no point is too basic to review, no technique too simple to teach.” This principle governs the whole enterprise, from recipe selection—which includes such basics as toasted nuts, roasted garlic, toasted breadcrumbs—to recipe instructions, which are specific, concrete, and thorough. Even seasoned cooks will appreciate having a chance to refamiliarize themselves with techniques, or may learn new and simpler ways of doing things.
The recipes, about 100 of them, are elegant and simple. Corn Salad uses only five ingredients and turns out both beautiful and eat-the-whole-bowl good. “You have to learn the basics to be able to do ‘simple’ well,” Spungen says, “or it can just be boring.” The recipes here are lively, fresh, easy, and sure-fire. Everything we tried turned out perfect: hard-cooked eggs, homemade crème fraîche, popovers. The refreshing opposite of a comprehensive tome, this is a tidy collection of just-enough go-to recipes that may just become an “In case of fire, grab me!” essential.
GIVE THIS TO: Beginning or no-nonsense cooks. —Tiffany Vickers Davis